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Industrial wind turbines are not ‘windmills’

West Marin/Sonoma Coastal Advocates welcomes this opportunity to respond to the editorial, “Failed windmill plan shows crack in green goals” which appeared in the Dec. 18 IJ.

We have presented our position at every community meeting and county Planning Commission hearing relating to the public review draft of the Local Coastal Program (LCP) and Development Code Amendments. (See: http://www.co.marin.ca.us/depts/CD/main/pdf/planning/coastal/Letters/_LCP_Letter_TOC_v2.htm).

We support small (to 40-feet maximum) wind energy conversion systems or “WECS” as defined by Marin County’s WECS ordinance. However, we do not support the installation of medium (40 to 200 feet) and large (over 200 feet, with no height limit) industrial-scale wind turbines in the coastal zone.

We have stated that all references to the permitting of medium and large WECS anywhere in the coastal zone is unacceptable and should be deleted from the LCP text and tables, including non-grid-tied WECS defined as “small” (40- to 100-feet) used solely to pump water for agricultural uses.

Further, we question the validity of pumping water for agricultural use with a utility-scale 100-foot WECS.

The coastal zone is internationally recognized for its wildlife, plant life, wetlands and scenic views. Tomales Bay and the Estero de San
Antonio are part of the Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary and the UNESCO Golden Gate Biosphere Reserve.

The bay is also included in the Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network, a designated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as a wetland of “international importance.” It also is recognized by the National Audubon Society as an important bird area.

Two 197-foot meteorological towers were proposed by NextEra Energy on ridgelines between Dillon Beach and Tomales near the Estero de San Antonio to gather data for a potential industrial-scale wind facility.

The permits for the two towers were approved by the Marin County Board of Supervisors, without requiring the preparation of an initial study, as required under the California Environmental Quality Act.

This formed the basis of our lawsuit in Marin County Superior Court.

We also filed an appeal to the Coastal Commission, along with Marin Audubon and the Environmental Action Committee of West Marin. Additionally, two coastal commissioners filed appeals individually. The state’s coastal plan is the umbrella legislation that enables the filing of appeals.

The Coastal Act preserves the rural and historic character of our coastal communities. West Marin’s coastal towns are international destination points, including Highway 1, a state scenic highway. As such, they contribute to the economic viability of the coastal zone. We support WECS to 40 feet because the scale respects the height limits within the various coastal zone communities.

The negative impacts of industrial wind turbines have been documented worldwide. Impacts include viewshed destruction, decreased property values, environmental degradation, bird and bat mortality, radar interference and health effects (“wind turbine syndrome”) caused by infrasound and low-frequency noise.

In conclusion, we support energy conservation and energy efficiency. We also support renewable energy, including small-scale wind power.

EAC and WMSCA invite the public to attend a screening of the Toronto International Film Festival award-winning documentary, “Windfall” by Laura Israel at the Dance Palace in Point Reyes Station on Jan. 20 at 6:30 p.m..

San Anselmo resident Beverly Childs McIntosh is a retired environmental planner. Helen Kozoriz is coordinator of Stop the Spray Alameda County in Oakland. Both are members of West Marin/Sonoma Coastal Advocates.